The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent: Pedro Pascal Says He Channelled Nicolas Cage’s “Energy” For Wonder Woman 1984 Role
'The Mandalorian' star says acting opposite his idol Nicolas Cage in the meta-action comedy 'The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent' kept him "present and inspired".
Never meet your heroes because they’re sure to disappoint, they say.
When asked if he’d regretted meeting his heroes, Pedro Pascal says his encounters with them have been nothing but joyous. “Nobody’s disappointed me yet,” the Chilean-American actor, 47, shares.
In his latest movie, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, The Mandalorian star gets to do just that — spar with his idol, Nicolas Cage.
As Javi, Pascal plays a Nicolas Cage super-fan and suspected international arms dealer who offers Nicolas Cage — as a fictionalised version of him in the movie — US$1 million (S$1.4 mil) for the Oscar-feted actor to attend his birthday party. Unbeknownst to Javi, Cage has been roped in by the CIA (Will Smith slap-defender Jennifer Haddish and The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz) to keep an eye on his host.
“There’s a lot of fantasy fulfillment in the idea of meeting your heroes on this one,” he enthuses.
Speaking to 8days.sg and other journos in a Zoom chat from New York, Pascal tells us more about the meta-action comedy, now out in the cinemas.
8 DAYS: The movie pokes fun at Nicolas Cage as a movie star and a workhorse actor. In terms of work ethics, what did you learn from him?
PEDRO PASCAL: Well, acting is something that I’ve always wanted to do. It started as a fantasy because of how often I went to the movies with my family, and my father would take us very often through my childhood, so I sort of grew up on the movies of my time. That developed into a hobby that I was allowed to do, that would keep me out of the house as far as my parents were concerned, which made them happy. And then it turned into studies and then work. I guess the hope that you develop the art of it throughout is something that can be very much a part of a job. You can chase inspiration, find inspiration, lose inspiration; it’s just a big roller coaster of art and logistics and business. And interestingly, making this movie with somebody that I grew up watching and who influenced me so much as an artist and as a movie star, it was incredible to be reacquainted in such an extreme way with somebody who is uncompromising in terms of how seriously they take the work, how spontaneous they keep it, how uncompromising they are in terms of the professionalism, but completely fluid in terms of how to adapt to each experience, location, scene, note and everything. So I would say it was almost like going back to school in this beautiful way, and to have a scene partner like that who kept you present and inspired was really special.
When Wonder Woman 1984 came out, your character Maxwell Lord has been described as Nicolas Cage-esque. So were you channelling him then?
I think in some instances, whether it’s conscious or not, when you’re young and absorbing information and being an audience member at such an impressionable age, with already a goal developing towards a life and profession that you want to have. Therefore, there are so many of his performances that are just imprinted into my mind, into my imagination. So I think that it isn’t necessarily a conscious thing. If I want to find the right kind of energy that makes sense to the scene, I think to myself almost like, “Oh, you know Nicholas Cage when he jumped up on that desk and pointed at Maria Conchita Alonso in Vampire’s Kiss?” I think I’m not gonna do exactly that, but that’s the energy that I’m after in this moment. It’s not what I’m going to replicate, but it’s what’s going to get me into the temperature of this moment. It’s not too literal — it’s just something that belongs to me. Not necessarily something that [is obvious]. But yeah, that’s kind of the way my process, and Nicholas Cage’s repertoire is very much in there as far as what makes sense to me.
One of my favourite scenes in the movie is where Javi and Nick Cage are tripping out on acid. How do you normally prepare such scenes?
Well, we did the drugs. I asked [director] Tom [Gormican] and Nick, and I said, “Should we drop acid for this scene? How many hours is this going to take?” They say it’s going to take all day, then okay, so it’s like an eight-hour acid trip. And Nick was like, “Let’s do it.” Then we just tripped on acid the whole time. But then it turned out we weren’t able to use any of that, so then the next day, we had to shoot the acid trip scene and just actually act it… just kidding. Nobody did acid on the set of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. I think the way that you prepare... it depends! You look it up on YouTube, I guess (laughs).
And did you?
You know, I actually think I did look up something, or a friend of mine sent me something on YouTube that basically graphically suggested what the visual experience would be. So I think I did look at that the night before, and just tried to see how it would feel to re-imagine all of the details of a room, or of nature, or concrete always kind of being alive and breathing while also doing the lines. I did do that. It’s all come down to YouTube (laughs). How do you fix your iPhone? How do you trip on acid? You go to YouTube. I can’t believe I’m plugging YouTube right now.
Another highlight is Javi’s shrine which is littered with props and memorabilia from various Nicolas Cage movies. Did you get to keep any of the props?
I didn’t get to keep the prop. I think when I walked into that prop room, I was so fascinated by all of the details. I wonder if it was there, but in case it wasn’t, what I would wanna keep is the pantyhose that he puts on his head in Raising Arizona. And then I would like to put that on my head and have somebody say, “You got a panty on your head.” Or maybe the Huggies diapers, or the chainsaw from Mandy, I don’t know. There’s just too many. These “choose” kinds of questions, I just can’t do it. I can’t! Because now I want the [sequined throw] pillow [with Nicolas Cage’s face]. And now I want the wooden hand from Moonstruck (laughs). And it just goes on and on and on. You’ve thrown me into a rabbit hole of props and none of which they gave me.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (NC16) is now in cinemas.
Photos: TPG News/Click Photos